Stenson doesn't flinch in giving the reader a look into of the emotional core of the moments she's lived in and through.We paraglide all over the world, in fact, to New York, Sapporo and other locales.One of the book's best pieces is "Lament for Franga":
The last time we met
she prepared Lover's Eggplant,
confided in me about her affair,
but never breathed a word
She and her lover
calculated their escape,
cleaned out the account, and
without a word, stole away
with her daughters.
I never heard from her again
but liked to imagine her
riding bareback on Maui,
inhaling island breezes redolent
with orchids and plumeria.
A few years later, I heard
she had died, suddenly
of uterine cancer at 35,
before her daughters
blossomed into womanhood.
The word "lament" probably doesn't cover the depth of emotion here, but it's apparent in the first stanza's perfectly-timed ending and the aching sadness surrounding "blossomed" in the last lines that a life is missed - and missed.A yearning for what could have been is the motion that moves us around death versus the natural tendency to get stuck in its dark center.A general comparison here can be to Larry Levis in that Stenson refers back to words and phrases from previous stanzas to great effect.The poem also shows that while Stenson is accessible, she can also be very straightforward.I wonder whether the phrases "without a word" in the second stanza and "I heard" in the last are necessary, but as passages on paper, one could argue that these tidbits allow us to walk along with the poems a little more.
One aspect of "Heavenly Body" that is especially appreciated is how much Stenson enjoys a wide vocabulary of mainstream words and place names.She luxuriates in beautiful terms and places, but doesn't take the reader out of the moment to reference Wikipedia.The start of the piece "Anniversary (Maui)" provides a fine example:
In the tropical Garden of Hana
nothing came between us, joining
the yang of ocean waves beneath the veranda
and the yin of a koi pond at the back door.
That night, a steady rain drenched the earth,
washing clean the years between us.
I whipped through the book in three or four sittings, finding these short pieces authentic, colorful and full of yearning.Maybe Stenson could write in more poetic forms.The other way to say that is whatever she tries works very well.
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